How do we reward our loyal customers?

A few days ago I got a very welcome email from Ezibuy telling me that one of their very best customers they would reward me with some extra bonuses like priority delivery for the price of standard delivery and a $20 voucher for my birthday. I do spend a lot with Ezibuy so it’s great to be rewarded for my loyalty 🙂

One of the things we touched on very briefly in our recent Marketing for Libraries workshops was the question of loyalty. I refered (again) to the excellent article by Julie Badger, Turning cold sellers into must haves: marketing unsought library products.

Badger’s focus is on article databases and is highly relevant for the tertiary sector and special libraries. But read the article and think about applying the idea of brand loyalty to libraries as whole. Many of us put considerable effort into persuading people to become new members. Think about who our competitors are in this situation – bookshops, ebooks, Google etc. Some people are very loyal to these “brands” and persuading them to change will be extremely difficult. Our drivers for increasing membership are numerous – and especially for public libraries can include the expectations of our governing bodies. But I think we should at least be aware that our efforts to increase membership may require a great deal of effort for not always a great return. Would that (or some of that) effort be better rewarded by increasing usage amongst our existing members? Or should we focus membership drives on targeted groups that we know are more likely to become regular library users (that’s if we know who these groups are to start with!). Food for thought.

Another thing to think about – this really applies to public libraries – is the practice of deleting customers off your system if they have been inactive after a set period. I am pretty sure that in the public library I used to work at (some years ago now) we deleted customers who were inactive after 2 years. How does this square with our idea of libraries being part of a person’s lifelong learning? In that context two years may not seem like a long time. Sure people pass away, move away etc. But not all of them. Some of them may be customers you put in the hard yards to win. What do you do to get them back as return customers and keep them loyal?

And how do you reward the loyalty of your regular customers? When it comes to academic libraries I am not sure that we do and right now I am not aware of how we could, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t! Dunedin Public Libraries reward their loyal users of their hot picks and holds services by offering prepaid cards that give discounts.

And why would we even bother? Well as Badger says:

We also need to nurture and reward our loyal customers so that they stay with us and hopefully generate positive word of mouth publicity.

For libraries the possibility to capitalise on word-of-mouth-marketing is a seriously big opportunity. As Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace say in Building a buzz: libraries & word-of-mouth marketing:

With all the newfangled technology out there, the commercial world is turning to word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) as the most powerful form of advertising. This is great news for libraries because WOMM is truly powerful and because we can afford it. For the first time, the playing field is level. We can compete. We can win public awareness and support (p. 7)

So how do you reward your loyal customers?

Promoting EPIC resources – ideas from the vendors at LIANZA11

One of the sessions I attended at the recent LIANZA conference was about the promotion of EPIC databases, with the session being presented by the vendors themselves.  You can find all their presentations from the session on the EPIC website .  Below are some of the ideas I took particular note of.

Most vendors provide:

–          posters that either you or they can customise for you

–          Search widgets for your website

–          Training for library staff in their resources

Liza Fisher from Gale Cengage talked about “shelf talkers” to make the link between hardcopy and print – they can provide these for libraries. This is what they look like:

Example of a Shelf Talker: Photo courtesy Gale Cengage

Liza also made a point that I whole heartedly agree with – you absolutely have to identify key content for your customers. In some library contexts promoting big databases can be overwhelming for staff and irrelevant for customers. Liza suggests taking opportunities to highlight journals that might appeal to your customers – for instance if you someone asks where the golfing books are this could be an opportunity to promote access to golfing magazines on the EPIC databases. This “would you like fries with that” approach is not so alien to us – it is an extension of our customer service values. As Camille from Britannica said at the same session, we librarians are in sales. Every great sales person worth their salt knows their product – and we have to know our products and resources too. Liza mentioned what they did at Auckland City Libraries a few years ago now where they ran a display competition between branches, with each branch promoting a different resource. In this way staff at each branch become familiar with at least one of the resources on offer.

In one of my earlier posts I included some ideas for promoting EPIC databases from the nz-libs list. Be sure to check that out – there are some great ideas there from libraries around New Zealand and staff training was a key tool. I also included a link to Julie Badger’s excellent article about the challenges of promoting library databases. If you only have time to read one article on libraries and marketing, make it hers 🙂

What article databases have in common with prepaid funerals

This post was inspired by recent exchanges on the NZ-Libs discussion list about the usage of databases provided via EPIC. Here I have included my response, and I have included some of the ideas for promoting database resources that came through in the responses. These are just a snapshot of the good ideas that came through and it was heartening that the EPIC Governance Group signalled they were looking for any feedback on collaborative approaches to training and promotion of electronic resources. (This can be sent to paula.banks@dia.govt.nz).

To borrow an analogy from Julie Badger’s excellent article “Turning ‘cold sellers’ into ‘must haves’:  marketing unsought library products” – article databases have as much appeal as a prepaid funeral.  They represent a type of product that consumers may be unaware of, or see no need for, or even have negative attitudes towards. And Badger is talking about databases in the academic library setting – promoting article databases to the general public represents further challenges.

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